Other than the opportunity to perfect my routine and compete for an Olympic medal in front of a home crowd, I'm excited for the London 2012 Olympic Games for a number of reasons. The number one reason is the attention and focus it has brought to the world of gymnastics.
In my last blog I told you how I "stumbled" into gymnastics. Most 6 year olds want to be world-famous footballers; you won't find many who say they want to be professional gymnasts. The first time I saw my face on a poster in the Underground, it was a bit weird. But then I realised something... That gymnastics in this country needs a face. Everyone's obsessed with football, and I admit it is a great sport, but people love gymnastics, they love watching us on TV. We hear it all the time. So it's our responsibility to use the spotlight of London 2012 to influence and inspire a new generation of gymnasts and gymnastic fans!
Other than an Olympic medal, my goal is to help revolutionise gymnastics in Britain and get more kids to give it a try. And because it's part of the National Curriculum at many schools, they can! The gyms and facilities are there; we just have to show them that it's just as fun and cool as other popular sports. And in a world of unhealthy food and too much telly, it's our job to get kids moving again. Don't get me wrong, I love my video games but it's about creating a balance.
The London 2012 Olympic Games are a great platform for the lesser known sports to gain the attention and recognition they need to help grow and nurture their athletes. Football, cricket and rugby players receive endless support and financial backing, it's important for athletes like me to receive the endorsements we need to represent our country and do what we love.
So now when I see my face on a billboard, I don't feel shy anymore, I feel really proud. And if it can get one hyperactive 6 year old to give gymnastics a go - I've done good. That for me is as good as winning Gold.
Speak to you soon,
In early January 2012, the team participated in the London Prepares test event at North Greenwich Arena. And we did good! I'm so proud to say that we qualified as a full team for London 2012 for the first time since Barcelona 1992. Get in! And my teammate, Dan Purvis and I managed to win individual gold medals at the test event too.
It was definitely one of my cleanest routines to date and I was really happy with my performance. I think I've learnt and grown a lot over the last couple of years and I'm starting to feel the difference when I compete. It was an amazing experience competing at the North Greenwich Arena too. It made things feel very real. It was great to be able to do my routine under that kind of pressure knowing that London 2012 is going to be here in just six months!
Being at North Greenwich felt like being on a football pitch, everyone was cheering for us. It was great. That kind of support is going to mean the world to me, come London 2012. Everyone knows that football teams perform better when they play at home, why shouldn't we?
What made the test event even better was that I knew my mates at UPS helped prepare the venue for us. It's the first time I've had the opportunity to see and appreciate what they do. It was very cool. We could just focus on our performance and get on with it. Everything was in its place and you could feel that it was really well organised. It immediately relaxes you. It looked totally different too; it didn't feel like the same venue that usually hosts those massive concerts.
All in all, it was a brilliant event and it made the six months that lie between the Games feel very short. I can't wait to be there for the real show.
Speak to you soon,
Last time we got together I told you about my diet and training programme, but I haven't really chatted to you about how I got into gymnastics and managed to
turn something I loved into a real career. People always ask me how/why I
became a professional gymnast in a country where every little kid wants to be a
famous footballer. Most kids get a football/tennis racquet/cricket bat to play
with; no one ever gets a pommel horse!
I loved football in school but eventually I got a bit bored of it and wanted to try something new. I remember my mum saying I couldn't focus on anything. Then
she came up with an idea - she'd take me to a gymnastics club in Huntingdon and
see what I thought. And, I loved it! I was only 6 years old but something about
gymnastics grabbed me.
It was the only thing that kept me focused and interested (and off mum's walls.) I
loved the repetition and trying to get something perfect. I loved that it wasn't easy and I really had to concentrate to get the routines right. Then I watched the 1996 Olympics on telly and thought to myself - "Wow, let's go there and do that."
My mum drove me back and forth down the A1 to the gym 6 days a week for more than 10 years. She's the only reason why I'm here today and I owe it all to her. She's been by my side for 14 years. She's helped me through the hard times,
like training through a painful injury. And she's been there through the good times too, like two Gold and Silver medals at the Commonwealth Games and one Olympic Bronze. One of my highlights was having my mum by my side in Beijing.
She traveled half way around the world to support me, having barely been out of
My coach, Paul Hall, has also been there since the beginning. He helped me win my
first title when I was 14 and we've worked harder and aimed higher ever since. With the London 2012 Olympic Games just around the corner, I want to make my mum proud and give her a bit of "pay back" for driving me to the gym and back more than 3000 times since I was 6.
Speak to you soon,
When UPS approached me last year with the opportunity to represent them as one of their London 2012 Olympic Games Ambassadors, I was pretty excited. Back then, I didn't know much about UPS and logistics, all I knew was that they had loads of brown vans all over the show! But getting to know the team has been great and I've learnt a few things along the way too.
But what I didn't know was that UPS would help me when I found myself in a massive fix (in the middle of Mexico)! Recently I was in Cancun, Mexico, attending a Warm Weather Training Camp as part of my London 2012 preparations. It wasn't long after I arrived when I realised I was missing something, my mobile phone was gone and I had no way of reaching anyone back home.
Because I live in the UK, I needed a sim card from my home country so I couldn't just buy one there. I managed to get hold of my agent on the Wednesday who got me a replacement and shipped it via UPS. Then disaster struck, the plane that my new phone was on experienced a mechanical delay and was stuck in the UK.
Fortunately for me, UPS loves logistics. Apparently they were able to implement a contingency plan that put my phone on another flight from the UK that went directly to the U.S. 24 hours later my new phone was safely in my hands in Cancun and I was able to work hard and carry on with my training camp.
Speak to you soon,
In the lead up to London 2012, my training schedule has intensified and at the moment we're training hard and ironing out all the little creases. I have a day off now and then but it's difficult to sit back and relax when you think that while you're tucking into a bag of salted peanuts, one of your competitors could be in the gym getting fitter and stronger.
On a training day, I usually start with a warm-up that takes about an hour. I focus on stretching and general conditioning. Most of the time I use my own body weight for this but occasionally I'll pick up a free weight or two. Then I do about 3 apparatus sessions with different combinations, focusing on the ones I'll be using in upcoming competitions.
Afterwards, I'll have a break and enjoy a good healthy lunch. After my break I'll do exercises that help with my individual elements, these include loads of handstands, push-ups and lift ups. I do lots of mid-body stuff to help strengthen my core and improve my posture.
Some training days are hard and you don't feel as strong, but you just have to work through them and try to not let them get you down. Mental strength gives you physical strength when you need it most.
Being a professional sportsman and Olympian is hard. But it's the dedication and the will to get up and train that eventually gets you there. You can be a naturally gifted athlete but without focus, discipline and self-motivation you will never be a true champion.
Speak to you guys soon,
Since I first teamed up with UPS, I started thinking about the logistics involved in sport and in the world of gymnastics especially. I soon realised that there are two parts to it, the first has to do with the venue, my equipment and my team, and the second part is all about me - my body, my preparation and my performance.
Knowing that all my equipment will be where it needs to be on competition day is extremely important and helps me focus on the task at hand. Then the way my team works is a logistics process in itself - making sure we're all in the right place at the right time is just as important. Juggling competitions, training, sponsorship and personal commitments is tricky and you need to be very organised, every step of the way.
Then there's the second part - me! When I'm on the pommel horse, every muscle and tendon in my body work like a powerful, invisible network helping each other move, bend and shift. And my brain controls it all... It delivers hundreds of thousands of messages (not in little brown packages!) from my fingers to my toes. To perfect a routine in gymnastics you need to repeat it a hundred times over until it becomes second nature - until you do it without even thinking.
There are a handful of key elements in gymnastics - a big pattern that made up smaller parts. Each part of the pattern depends on the one before it. The same rule applies in successful logistics, the final time and destination of an item depends entirely on the journey in all its single parts.
Logistics and gymnastics share so many important qualities including timing, communication and repetition. They both rely on the small, seemingly unimportant things to make the big impressive things happen. Gymnastics has allowed me to do something I love every day and in a funny way, so has logistics.
And to think a few months ago the only thing I ever thought they had in common was ending in "stics"!
Speak to you guys soon,